The union government could soon take action against former West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay for skipping Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s crucial meeting on 28 May in the state over Cyclone Yaas. Earlier, however, these officials had said that the possible action on Bandyopadhyay had nothing to do with the absence of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee from the said meeting.
“A reply from Alapan Bandopadhyay has been received last night and is being examined. Further course of action will be decided soon,” union government sources said.
Alapan Bandyopadhyay had on 3 June replied to the government’s show-cause notice served to him under the Disaster Management Act to explain his absence from the prime minister’s meeting on 28 May, saying that he had to leave for a cyclone-hit area on orders from the chief minister, highly placed sources said. The West Bengal government sent its reply to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on the matter on 3 June, the last day for sending it.
In his reply, Bandyopadhyay said that as per the directive of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, he had left the meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a review of Cyclone Yaas-ravaged Digha, a popular sea resort town in Purba Medinipur district.
The MHA had on 31 May served a show-cause notice to Bandyopadhyay under a stringent provision of the Disaster Management Act that entails imprisonment up to two years, amid a tug-of-war between the union government and the Mamata Banerjee government over him.
Bandyopadhyay, a 1987-batch IAS officer of West Bengal cadre, was set to retire as the chief secretary on 31 May, but the state recently sought and received permission for extension of his tenure for three months as he played a crucial role in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
He was, however, sent a directive to report to North Bloc in Delhi by the government, shortly after a row broke out over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s post-cyclone review meeting with Banerjee on 28 May.
Mamata Banerjee chose to meet the Prime Minister for just 15 minutes instead of a longer and planned review meeting, upset that her former aide, BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari too had been called for the meeting at Kalaikunda airbase to review the damage wrought by cyclone ‘Yaas’. Banerjee, along with the chief secretary, left after handing over a report on the devastation caused by the cyclone in the state.
The bureaucrat, instead of reporting to Delhi, chose to retire and he was subsequently appointed as Mamata Banerjee’s chief adviser.
The union government then served a show-cause notice on Bandyopadhyay under a stringent provision of the Disaster Management Act that entails imprisonment up to two years. A home ministry official said that hours before the chief minister announced his retirement on 31 May, Bandyopadhyay was served the notice for refusing to comply with the lawful direction of the government in violation of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Bandyopadhyay has started working as chief adviser to the Chief Minister.